Best Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Exploring Tools, Resources and Guides for Social Work Students

Social workers dedicate their careers to the service of others and can make a distinct, critical difference in the lives of countless people. A bachelor’s degree program in social work will provide students a combination of social work theory and hands-on field training. Both teach students advanced clinical skills in fields like social and economic development, mental health, advanced clinical social work practice, policy practice and contemporary social issues. Explore these degree programs, course requirements and the career options for bachelor’s in social work graduates below.

Students interested in exploring different bachelor’s degree programs in social work can get a jump start on their research here. This list of the best online bachelor’s in social work degree programs for 2017 pinpoints several factors critical to a student’s experience, including student teacher ratio, clinical experience offerings, the school’s graduation rate and tuition cost. Students can use these rankings as guidelines, as they investigate a school’s curriculum, faculty expertise and how courses match their career goals.

1 The University of Alabama

The School of Social Work offers the degrees of bachelor of social work, master of social work and doctor of philosophy.

The School of Social Work was established in 1965 by the Alabama Legislature, and the School’s first dean was appointed the following year. The MSW Program was first accredited in 1969, and the first class received master’s degrees the same year. The MSW program was re-accredited in 2011 for the maximum period of eight years.

The undergraduate program in social work was approved in 1969 and placed within the School of Social Work in 1970. In 1974, the undergraduate program was first accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The BSW program was re-accredited in 2011 for the maximum period of eight years.

The doctoral program began as a doctor of social work (DSW) program in 1975 to prepare teachers and researchers for the social work profession. Over the years, recognizing the need for increased emphasis on research within the profession, the faculty substantially revised the program. As of 1992, the doctor of philosophy (PhD) has been conferred. The doctoral program is affiliated with the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE) in social work.

The School of Social Work currently offers the degrees of bachelor of social work (BSW), master of social work (MSW), and doctor of philosophy (PhD).

Social Work (BSW)
Social Welfare

General Degree Requirements
Students are required to complete a minimum of 120 hours for the degree. Of those, 48 hours must be in social work courses. Required courses are listed in the preceding Program Requirements section under Overview.

Hours of Study for the Minor in Social Welfare
Independent Study
Course Substitution
Transient Enrollment
Second Bachelor’s Degree

2 University of Alaska Fairbanks

At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, students can earn an undergraduate degree in social work that specializes in managing the socioeconomic, environmental or domestic problems that are unique to Alaska’s interspersed population. UAF’s Bachelor of Arts in Social Work is a well-rounded program that prepares graduates for employment as social workers in agencies that promote mental health, family and child services, Alaska native organizations or senior citizen centers. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the program requires 120 credits for completion and is comprised of general electives, behavioral science studies and fieldwork experience. During students’ final year in the program they begin experiential work, helping indigenous tribes living in the remote regions of the Alaskan wilderness. Students must first apply and prove they are ready for their fieldwork experience before being placed within an organization. Students then complete a minimum of 400 hours working alongside practicing social workers during their internship, and have two semesters to meet this requirement. UAF’s undergraduate social work program is designed as a traditional degree, however a number of social work courses are offered online each semester. Students majoring in other fields at UAF can also earn an undergraduate minor. 
Undergraduate students enrolled in the BSW program have financial aid and scholarships available, as well as differentiated tuition rates benefitting native Alaskans and other Pacific coast students. Through the Western Undergraduate Exchange, students living in 14 western states are eligible for a significantly discounted non-resident tuition rate. Undergraduate students who are Alaska residents receive a competitive in-state rate that increase as a student progresses to higher levels of education. This is applicable to non-residents as well.

3 Washburn University

Practicing what they preach, Washburn University aims to help students struggling to find ways of earning their undergraduate degree succeed. The university’s Bachelor of Social Work program teaches students to value justice and to be the people who fight for disadvantaged citizens. Washburn University offers both a BSW and MSW degree program, taking a versatile approach to undergraduate learning. The BSW program allows students to gain experience practicing many different forms of social work to give a generalist education and the chance to specialize at the graduate level. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, Washburn’s BSW program integrates real-world social work experience into the learning curriculum. Upon reaching the final phases of their undergraduate educations, students are required to complete a practicum. Students undergo an interview process and are assigned a field placement based on their academic performance. In this practicum, students have the chance to observe and work with experienced social workers in the field. Students must reach at least 480 hours of practicum work, with at least 240 hours completed each semester during their senior year. While most required courses in the BSW program are offered on campus, Washburn has a select number of undergraduate social work classes available 100 percent online each semester, so students can create flexibility in their education and work schedules. In addition, all face-to-face learning at Washburn uses online resources for course materials so student always have access to information. After finishing all degree requirements, students must pass the examination from the Association of Social Work Boards to become a licensed social worker. Washburn BSW graduates currently have a 91 percent pass rate, compared to the 71 percent average across North America in the most recent academic year.

4 University of Utah

While requirements for professional social workers vary by state, at the University of Utah graduates with a Bachelor of Social Work degree have the necessary foundation to find employment in 30 states. To become a social worker in Utah, a license is required and academic degree programs offered in the state aim to satisfy the licensing requirements. The social work programs offered by the University of Utah are accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, including the school’s online BSW option. One of a select number of accredited online BSW programs, this degree program is fully online. General education and lower division courses should be completed before applying to the online BSW degree and transfer students may check to see how their credits stack up at the University of Utah. The online portion includes 48 credits of upper-level coursework, completed over three to four semesters. Students must also complete a mandatory fieldwork experience to graduate from the program at a site pre-approved by the university. Currently there are more than 150 certified practicum locations for BSW students in Utah, across the country and abroad. Both online and campus-based students must clock 450 hours of internship experience and coordinate their experience with the on-site instructor. The opportunity to work with experienced social workers gives students a mentor-mentee relationship, which can be valuable in their post-graduation endeavours. Graduates of the program typically find employment at schools, correctional facilities, child services organizations, nursing homes, addiction centers and many other agencies dedicated to to preserving and restoring social justice and bettering a person’s quality of life. Social work students are eligible for scholarship opportunities administered through the college of social work. Most recently, the college awarded more than $250,000 in financial aid distributed among 95 students. Tuition rates are lower for Utah residents, while out-of-state students both on campus and online pay a higher fee.

5 Western New Mexico University

Recognizing the projected national need for qualified, sound social workers, Western New Mexico University aims to graduate social workers equipped with the tools for direct employment. To accomplish this goal, the online undergraduate social work program provides a broad foundation to working in many diverse environments of social work. WNMU’s Bachelor of Social Work graduates may find themselves working in prisons or juvenile correctional facilities, hospitals, addiction treatment centers, mental health facilities or in government or nonprofit agencies. Social work courses at WNMU are kept to intimate class sizes and are instructed by professional social workers with years of experience in the field. To enter the program, students must be accepted to WNMU and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. Unfortunately the school does not accept or award any credit for prior work experiences as the program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSEW) and all students must meet the CSEW’s criteria to earn the degree. 

This degree program is open to students around the country and is offered as an entirely online degree. Occasionally synchronized learning may be required such as a telephone conference class. Some courses are offered in accelerated formats during the spring semester, and all courses are eight weeks long in the summer. As part of graduation requirements, students must complete an internship in the field during their senior year of studies. This experiential learning can be conducted within the student’s geographic region and faculty within the department work with students to find a suitable location. Western New Mexico University is a part of the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which is a tuition agreement among 14 states. Through this initiative, students who have not yet earned their bachelor's degree living in the west have access to discounted out-of-state tuition rates at universities across the region. Students applying from states outside of this agreement pay full out-of-state tuition costs at WNMU.

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